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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’ve seen someone on another forum pushing refractometers on first year beekeepers with a Flow Hive. Are these gadgets really necessary for a backyard beekeeper with a hive or two?

A refractometer is really deep down at the bottom of my list of things I need for beekeeping.

If not how do you check honey with one before harvesting? Isn’t the fool proof way to just let the bees cap the entire frame?
 

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Sometimes flow conditions taper off and though uncapped the honey is well within acceptable moisture range. The bees seem reluctant to cap. I dont get a real dearth but some places may choose to extract and feed syrup if there is going to be a predictable lull.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Cheers for that. Is honey checked before or after harvest with a refractometer? I think you just need a tiny drop.
 

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I got a cheap ($20ish) dollar refractory off amazon. It is not super accurate, but it works. I knew the water content in my honey was low, but I wanted to put a value to it. I do not think it is necessary, and I think it may depend on your location. People were able to extract honey without refractometers, or other fancy tools for a long time.
 

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90 % of time the shake test is fine. But to loose a 5 gallon or more is a sad thing
 

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Refractometers are cheap and easily calibrated, yes there are other ways to check water content however in my opinion cost-wise, effectiveness and for piece of mind if you’re selling your produce, you can’t beat them. And yes, cheapo’s do need calibrating frequently but only takes a minute using virgin olive oil.
 

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Agree that it's worth the small change. Bottling up honey and having it ferment is a bummer, even for a hobbyist. Recalibrate frequently. Learned that lesson. J
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Ok. I am probably too small a honey producer to worry about a refractometer, though I did sell some honey to friends and neighbours.

I always thought that harvesting when the honey is fully capped is enough peace of mind, but I fully understand it's usefulness once you have a bigger apiary and may not always harvest when frames are 100% capped.
 

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You are generally safe with capped honey. However, size does not matter. It is not unusual to have uncapped honey that is fine. Why leave it behind? Also, if you know the moisture content, you can combine some high with some low moisture to bring it down so it won't ferment. J
 

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There may be some variation in olive oils.
Better Bee recommends glycerin.

Google

Calibrate refractometer Better Bee

Note: Way too complicated to include a link to a pdf using android in default mobile style on this site
 

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Refractometers are not a necessary tool, but an interesting one to test the percentage moisture content of your honey. I keep Langstroth hives and this year I started a Slovenian-style bee house with four hives. I've read that the Slovenian approach yields honey with lower moisture content. After extracting honey from both setups, I tested it with a refractometer. My Slovenian hives yielded honey with less than 16.5% water content. The Langstroth hives yielded honey with 17.5%+ moisture content.
 

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Ok. I am probably too small a honey producer to worry about a refractometer, though I did sell some honey to friends and neighbours.

I always thought that harvesting when the honey is fully capped is enough peace of mind, but I fully understand it's usefulness once you have a bigger apiary and may not always harvest when frames are 100% capped.
In the grand scheme of your bee related expenses : its a tiny expense. I see it as a quantitative safety measure before I pass of "bad honey". Like they said : online, super cheap, calibrate with basic stuff (olive oil, anhydrous glycerine).

I started just a few years ago, small volumes, still use it religiously.

Mandatory? probably not. Strongly encouraged? yes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I've been convinced.

However one thing that always put me off was that when I look them up, it appears that the same honey refractometer unit, made in the same Chinese sweatshop vary in price between $12 on Aliexpress, to $24-$50 on eBay, to over $120 from brick and mortar bee shops. I've been bitten before buying cheap Chinese stuff.

Are there any quality analogue ones, made in a reputable country, under $100? I always try to buy quality stuff that will last me a long time, rather than cheap, and replace.
 
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